It’s time to love estate agents, public are told

Should the public learn to love estate agents?

Yes, says Ed Mead, writing in the Financial Times.

Mead, who is executive director of London firm Douglas & Gordon, says people blame estate agents in the same way that they shoot messengers.

When their property dreams don’t materialise, who else do they have to blame?

“Given the absurdity of our property-buying system, the cheapest in the developed world and one the government refuses to regulate in even the most basic way, there are plenty of weak links where those who could face blame enjoy hiding behind the estate agent.

“Most of the public erroneously think that, once an offer has been accepted on a UK property, it is sold – it’s not. Until contracts have been exchanged, anyone can pull out of a deal – buyer or seller – and 35% of people do. That’s a lot of heartache, and lost money.”

If the buyer pulls out as the deal simply takes too long, says Mead, it could be for a number of reasons but none are the fault of the agent.

Mead argues: “The solicitors could be slow but it’s much easier to blame the agent rather than a lawyer.”

Nor is it the agent’s fault if there is gazumping or gazundering.

But says Mead: “There is one very good reason why you should love your agent. Very few property dreams come true without one. It may surprise you but only 20% or so of the work an agent does goes into advertising your property or putting details on one of the massive property portals.

“Eighty per cent is reserved for the bit that cajoles, begs, drives, counsels, buys, kicks, obsesses over and finesses all the elements mentioned above. Given we are the undertakers, the last involved, we very rarely get any thanks.”

It is an excellent piece

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  1. Jacqueline Emmerson

    What would help is if estate agents understood the legal process. We have one agent who single handedly almost derails every case she gets her hands on. Ringing up the parties and making promises that can’t possibly be kept if we are to operate within the law. On one of my cases she decided that our client should throw in a load of extras, she informed the other party that this had been agreed when neither we nor our client had even been consulted about the matter. Then there is another agent who interrupts our work on an almost daily basis when one after another Of their progressors ring and ask the same question. Thus blocking our lines and slowing our progress. It gets worse at the end of the month when everyone is looking for their commission. So many agents assume it’s just a couple of forms to fill in. It’s actually become a huge amount of work and a huge risk on our insurance for fees that are a fraction of those an agent charges.

    1. smile please

      I take your point but 12 weeks on average to complete legal work for a property is absurd.

      We have dealings with you but i have been in the industry for almost 20 years and used many solicitors.

      The issue tends to be no focus on getting a property through in a timely manner “It takes as long as it takes” is not acceptable in 2015.

      There is also a massive problem in chasing documents that are outstanding, chasing a managing agent once a month by letter is not proactive.

      The agent is looking to speed the process up. By calling you rightly or wrongly they are hoping you will chase the outstanding documentation.

      And if solicitors are having trouble with work load you should turn it away or invest in more staff to lessen waiting times.

      And hiding behind letters does not help. pick the phone up speak to the other side sort the issues then send the the letter to confirm.

      Imagine if agents only sent letters!

      1. smile please

        Sorry missed out the NOT in had dealings with you. apologies

        1. wilko

          Agree with you smile, but also agree with the Jaqueline as it would drive me mad if in – experienced agency staff tried to tell me how to do my job or made unreasonable promises to sellers and buyers.

          In my view solicitors don’t charge anywhere near enough to be able to do the job quickly and efficiently.

          I know of solicitors who charge significantly more, but deliver a quality, speedy service hand in hand with agents, who in turn will recommend them to any buyers/sellers. Most sellers/buyers would be happy to spend over £1000 for each transaction if they received excellent service.

          1. smile please

            To an extent i agree. Many would be happy to pay a higher fee but i still have clients that pay over £2000 for the conveyancing process (excluding stamp) and still have terrible service.

            In regards to unrealistic timescale what is unrealistic? We try and agree a target completion date when agreeing a sale (we know this is seldom acheived) as this gives the buyers sellers a date to work to and ensures they return paperwork. we usually set 2 months for this. We tend to find buyers and sellers return everything promptly within a day or two but then sits on the desk of the solicitor for maybe a week or so until its looked at.

            Most mortgage advisors do a good job and mortgage offer is out timely, in my part of the world we have a quick turn around on searches. It is just enquiries and solicitors not getting round to dealing with them which tends to be the issue.

  2. agency negotiation limited

    Yes, it’s time to love estate agencies again but not just for the reasons espoused. Let’s asess how many hours actually go into a sale – from the presentation through promotion to completion. Of course, it varies with every sale but an hourly rate of perhaps £100 may be considered fair ( based on a NAEA member). Can every sale be started and completed in 15-20 hours? If not, those that charge a fixed fee or those that are selling properties where the eventual commission is under £2000 are effectively working at a reduced hourly rate. At a 1.0% fee, the longer the sale progresses, the less the hoiurly rate. Add to this the no sale/ no fee business model and it’s easy to see why high Street agencies in many cases deserve the respect.

    Taking the hourly rate then into the online model, you have to ask how many hours the online agencies are putting into the process. Either that, or they are happy to work for under £50 hour based on the above example and less if the sale hits problems.

    My dissatisfaction with agencies is not that they are to blame when things go wrong, but that they do very little to establish themselves as THE authority in their area. They use amateurish marketing and fail to differentiate from other agencies.

    Once the great agencies do that, the standards overall will rise but it will take time.

  3. Paul Jager

    Good points made in the article. I wonder if one of the problems is that agents don’t  communicate enough about what they really do for their commission ie “cajoles, begs, drives, counsels……………”?

  4. smile please

    You are indeed right a fantastic read.

    It should be made law that sellers and buyers read this when they embark on looking for a new home.

  5. The Outsider

    The problem is that you cant force the general public to love you or your profession.  That can only come with the respect earned through great customer service and value for money.  It only takes one negative story within the industry to undo good work you do at a local level.

    Take bankers for example – the majority of people who work for a bank are branch tellers who had no influence whatsoever over the crisis in 2008, yet 7 years on, they have still gained no goodwill or recognition for some of the good things they may have been doing.

    It’s a long fight, and one which may never end, but if you get your own service right you can be the best of a so called bad bunch.

  6. Been Here Too Long

    When I was born the midwife didn’t say “Oh look, you’ve had an Estate Agent” – I get a little bit tired of the blame being placed firmly at my door when the reality is that from the minute a property becomes sale agreed there is very little I can do. Yes I can sales chase, but I’m not the Solicitor and I cannot influence the outcome.

    The majority of agents are decent, hard working human beings who take pride in their job and, as in my case, still genuinely love what they do. We are just doing a job – stop vilifying us, we’re a service industry and most of us try to be exactly that. And the same goes for solicitors, before anyone shouts at me!



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